Overcome Evil with Good

When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus responds by essentially telling us that there is a paper-thin distinction between loving God and loving our neighbors. Jesus' speech on Love in Matthew 22 sets off a big discussion, which ends with Jesus reiterating his love ethic (Matthew 25:31-46).

According to Jesus, the way we love others is like the way we love God, and the way we love God is like the way we love others. This has profound implications for all spheres of our lives, because if the way we love God and others is similar, then the way we fail to love God and others is also similar.

Biblical Love is perhaps best thought about as a flow, where loving others (including our enemies) flows out of the voracity of our love toward God. You see, we can do all sorts of religious things: we can read our bibles, offer up prayers, serve at church, give to the poor, be moral, and have our theology all lined up. But, as the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, without Love all of that is meaningless noise.

However, with Love, all things take on ultimate meaning. As we love God with all our mind, our minds will be set on loving others. In loving God with all our soul, our souls are moved toward righteousness and justice. In loving God with all our hearts, our hearts are broken for the same things for which God's heart is broken. A kind of positive feedback loop is created which will propel us into greater and greater love for both God and our neighbors.

Love is a relational concept that needs to include your whole being. It's not well-wishing, and it's not feeling a certain way about others. It's also not just doing things. Love involves your heart, mind and body. I would say that most importantly, Love is an internal choice that precedes all other choices. It's the choice to consider others above yourself (Philippians 2:3), it's the choice to forgive and bear with one another (Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:13), and it's the choice to be humble instead of haughty. In marriage, Love looks like respect and sacrifice. Wives respect their husbands (which is a form of sacrifice), who offer themselves sacrificially to their wives just as Christ did for the church (which is a form of respect) (Ephesians 5:22-33). It ebbs and flows, back and forth between us and through us. But over time, these small everyday decisions to show love can build a head of steam, reach a tipping point, and make an incredible difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

But it doens't happen over night. It happens


Jesus, then, was asked about one great commandment but he answers by giving two commandments. In one swoop, Jesus tells us that the entire law - as in, 10 commandments, all morality, hundreds of religious laws about every aspect of waking and sleeping life, even the sacrificial system ... the whole works, is summed up by this: Love God, and Love others.

His answer is, quite frankly, shocking. The premise of religious morality is to dutifully obey in order to be accepted by God. But this is not the Gospel. In contrast to religious morality, the Gospel tells us that we are already fully accepted by God. Any sense of duty or obligation needs to flow out of the joy of acceptance. It's a completely different picture, and I'm not even sure you could call it duty if the source of your motivation for obedience is unrequited Love and Joy.

Of course, Jesus' answer is seen as blasphemous by the Pharisees, who were the 1st century versions of the gatekeepers of biblical truth. He was pretty well a dead man walking after this. Yet, Love it should be with all of our relationships, including those with people from across the political, theological and even work and church aisles. Our model is Jesus, on the cross, forgiving the very people who were crucifying and mocking him.

What I notice is how he didn't sugar coat things. Jesus was honest that what was being done to him was wrong. Yet he asked for them to be forgiven. You see, the expectation of Jesus' duty was that he would save himself and conquer Rome. But that wasn't it. Jesus' duty was to Love God and Love us; borne out of Jesus' deep, intimate relationship with God, Love led him to the cross and to Resurrection, and eventually to be with each of us through faith.

As much as the ideals and expectations of others might frustrate or scare us, we need to learn to be compassionate with one another, but also not afraid to be real. If there's a relational poison in our workplace, marriage, friendship, social media feeds - let's name it, deal with it and move on together. Otherwise, we might revert to blindly keeping on or reacting in blind anger, which isn't going to help anyone grow.


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